The ForceBrands team was on the ground at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore last week to check out the latest product innovations and meet some of the influential people building the CPG brands of tomorrow. The trade show hosted more than 1,500 brands, including 244 first-time exhibitors, according to a press release from the event’s producer, New Hope Network.

In keeping with the tradition of past shows, the 33rd annual Expo East was an opportunity to showcase industry trends. This year’s show was a playing ground for all things alternative to the usual suspects, whether it be dairy, carbs, or protein sources.

There were a handful of dairy alternatives including Milkadamia’s Macadamia Fudge Creamer made with macadamia nuts and coconut cream. Lavva showcased dairy-free, sugar-free yogurts utilizing the Pili (“pee-lee”) nut. As a girl who grew up less than a mile from a dairy farm, I thought it would be hard to get on the plant-based “dairy” train but these brands have created delicious (and gorgeous!) products that can appeal to even the most avid pure milk enthusiast.

In a world where protein reigns supreme, it can be difficult to stand out, but a number of brands achieved an exciting balance between innovation and functionality. Sonoma Brands debuted their newly launched brand PECKISH, an on-the-go set of organic, free-range, hard-boiled eggs with various crunchy dipping “peck packs” in flavors such as maple waffles and rancheros. On the protein partnership front, Wild Friends and Vital Proteins came together in creamy harmony to create collagen nut butters; blending grass-fed collagen peptides with traditional peanut and almond butters — a duo that offers another innovative way to pack in your protein.

Other notable trends included cauliflower. Yes, it’s official: carbs are out, cauliflower is in. While our friends at Caulipower might be old news for all of you ‘flower heads’ (it’s not old news at all, try it, it’s delightful), newcomer Nolita arrived at Expo East debuting “tater tots without the tater” — delicious, bite-sized “cauli-bites” that have all the flavor and crunch of a fried potato. Flavors are available in Original and Buffalo Spice. These little bites couldn’t come out of the oven fast enough at the show.

While Expo East is a wonderful opportunity to sample all the latest product innovations and trends, it’s even more exciting to be able to connect with the people behind the brands.

Interested in working for an innovative natural food or beverage brand? Explore our job board or connect with one of our Executive Recruiters.

Photo Credit: Ella Olsson